Major political parties in Pakistan have been cleared to proceed with their political campaigning after proving a minimum of 5% female participation in the upcoming elections. On a practical note, this means they have been allotted an election symbol on the ballot. However, 5% representation indicates a great imbalance as far as politics is concerned. Despite having the world’s first female to head a Muslim-majority country through a democratic government, who was alive just a decade or so ago, women are not considered important participants in politics.
The minimum quota for female candidates was craftily exceeded by just a few numbers by each party, which was patronising rather than charming. As more women engage in politics and comprise a larger percentage of the voter population, the minimum quotas will need to change. The ECP requirement of a 5% minimum quota for women is too low. Also, this is a percentage of total tickets awarded, and not the number of general seats, which is either a loophole or a carelessly thought-out rule. It is too late though to revise for the coming elections, times are changing and the ECP must consider updating the stipulated requirement. Reform is also needed in other aspects. Like, when a party is prohibited to run due to reported links with banned outfits, members should be placed on a list and banned from running through another party’s platform.
By increasing the female quota, the approximately 60 parties not following the guidelines this time will be forced to do so in five years, or else be shamed for their chauvinist ideologies. For the major parties, it remains to be seen just how much consideration will be given to the women on board their teams. Nevertheless, the political landscape of Pakistan is gradually shifting and greater female participation will mean more women empowerment, behind which the ECP will have to throw its weight in a male-dominated arena.